Not so long ago, some like-minded souls asked whether international membership of our cooperative was possible, or whether there were any other ways to support what we do. So we put the idea to our socios, had our usual discussion and unanimously decided to offer international membership of the cooperative SLB!
In truth, we knew it was always possible to do this – George Chilton, one of our founding socios, lives and works in Colombia. But as much of our work has been focused on our local situation in Barcelona and Catalonia, we worried that international members would not benefit in the same way as our local ones. In the end, however, we decided that there was still plenty that international members could get out of it and contribute to our work, and given the people that have expressed interest, we felt that it was in the best interests of SLB to open up.
How international membership of the cooperative SLB works
International members (i.e. not based in Catalonia/Spain) would contribute the same investment in social capital as our other socios: 200€ (+30€ registration fee), which constitutes their share of the co-op. The 200€ is returned should any member decide to leave, or after the 6 month trial period is up, with profits or losses calculated in. (So far over our first two years we are breaking even, with significant investment made over that time).
Given the low capital investment, we also ask (although it is not an obligation) that members contribute time to helping develop our services (e.g. materials development, teacher training). We use a timebank system to acknowledge members’ contributions, which will be used to calculate distribution of profit-share when applicable. An “ideal” 60 hour time investment over a year (or 5 hours a month) would represent a very solid contribution. However, we are perfectly happy with those members who don’t have the time or inclination to do this! And we also aim to pay for such work directly whenever the budget allows.
Furthermore, international members would also contribute a subscription of 20€ p/month (for freelance socios) or 15€ for non-freelancers. Sales tax is added unless you have a European Union VAT number. The subscription ensures access to, and development of, all of our services, which include access to a growing library of resources for teachers and translators as well as subscriptions to various journals and ed-tech tools. Although we acknowledge that some services will be less useful for international socios – e.g. the legal and financial guidance we offer, which largely relates to the Catalan and Spanish situation – we feel that the monthly contribution should be equal to that made by current local socios. In any case, international members would be able to develop similar guidance for their own local situation to add to our library of resources.
Working for clients via SLB
All international freelance socios (i.e. those who can issue us with a legal invoice) can have the opportunity to work for us and be paid at very competitive rates (significantly above average rates in our local situation). An example of where this may benefit international socios is in the development of online courses on the platform we are currently constructing. We will be looking for all kinds of quality online or blended learning language or teacher-training courses which will be sold via SLB.coop – with authors paid via a royalty system (a system now abandoned by many ELT publishers, much to the detriment of writers).
There may also be chances to do well-paid work remotely on translations, proofreading and materials development.
All SLB socios have the chance to participate democratically in the major decisions of the cooperative, such as the distribution of profits or any changes to the way we work. The less major decisions taken by the executive council (consell rector) are also shared and discussed on our forum, with members able to hold the executive to account if they feel the objectives of the cooperative are not being respected.
Major decisions are voted on in a General Assembly (Assamblea General) which takes place at least once a year. The decision to expand our membership internationally was voted on in our last GA just a few days ago. International members will be able to participate in these meetings via videoconferencing or by nominating a proxy to vote for them if they are unable to attend.
Who can be a member?
Basically, anyone who agrees with our objectives! Beyond that, all potential socios need to submit a CV and supporting statement and have an interview with an SLB member. If accepted, and after your investment has been made, you’re in! There’s a six month trial period after which, if either the socio or the cooperative is unhappy, the investment is returned immediately.
Although membership is completely open, we are particularly interested in anyone with the following additional skills and experience: web development/ICT, marketing, sales and design.
So if you support what we are doing and feel you could either benefit, contribute or both, we’d be delighted to hear from you. And if you join us, you’ll soon be hearing our customary toast – Visca la Cooperativa!
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